Photograph courtesy of D. W. Andrus
Just when you think something is over and done with, just when you’re beginning to relax in the belief that you have fixed the problem, stemmed the tide, mended the fence, changed the subject, finalized the divorce, ended the occupation, switched the gears or slain the dragon… your cousin Don surprises you. Well, what ever did I expect, anyway? Don is a wizard too, and – as you must know – wizards never tire of having fun, so why was I surprised to receive a book of poetry entitled, “Muddled Meanderings in an Outhouse?”
You see, my mother was known by many as “The Outhouse Lady.” She was an artist, and her gimmick (the thing that caught the eye of potential buyers of her more serious work) was her display of small outhouse paintings accompanied by a sign which read: Hang an outhouse in your bathroom and count your blessings! $5 She would paint the stand of hollyhocks next to each privy to match the colors of the buyer’s powder room. People loved them, and my mother’s newfound notoriety solved the birthday and Christmas gift-giving problem for all the relatives: They gave my mother’s outhouses to their friends; they gave my mother everything ever produced that immortalized the outhouse.
I thought that part of my life was behind me…
Outhouse Lady (for Don)
She went out back in younger days
The Sears and Roebuck book to read,
Passed some time (if nothing else)
Seated by hollyhocks grown up from seed.
In later years she’d paint that place,
(Not the interior walls as you might assume),
But tiny pictures for five bucks apiece
To hang in modern indoor rooms.
She was dubbed “The Outhouse Lady”
And was known both far and wide;
Her children suffered embarrassment,
As from her fame they tried to hide.
Gifts would come at Christmas
From the painter’s nephews and cousins:
Calendars, puzzles, books of rhyme;
Outhouse pictures by the dozens.
The family bathroom became the repository
For this mounting pile of privy lore,
Until it became so full it was impossible
To use the place for what it was intended for…
What to do? And where to go?
Asked her desperate kids and spouse –
The solution (thanks to Port-a-potty)
Was a modern out-back house!
Through wind and snow we then took the path
To the new bathroom way out back,
(At least there was Scott tissue
Replacing that damned old almanac).
Years later we lost our privy painter,
And her “collection” was garage-saled away,
The bathroom was clear and clean once more –
‘Till your gift arrived today!
How important the inheritance
Of family lore and memories,
But I must scratch my head and wonder
How this mantle has passed to me?!?!